The fact that this place has the word “Express” in it should give you a hint about the kind of establishment this is. Fast. No fuss. And a perfect example of a lunch spot.
What do I mean by that last bit? To me, a lunch spot is somewhere where there’s some afternoon specials, the meal isn’t going to cost you $15+ (and is more in the range of $10 or less), and you’re guaranteed quick service. Common folk only get an hour designated for lunchtime, so who wants to spend it waiting around for the food to get out or standing around in a long line to even order? (Okay, maybe all those Shake Shack fiends are fine with it.) Even better, Express Manna Kitchen offers a nice change from the numerous bakeries, delis, and cafes around that provide the routine lunch fare of soups, salads, and sandwiches. For those working in the Union Square/Flatiron area, it’s a welcome variation from the norm to get a quick lunch of Korean food.
While the restaurant is small, there are a few tables inside and some out on the sidewalk. I’ve never had trouble getting a seat, because a lot of people end up getting their food to-go. And why not when the place packages each little condiment and order item separately in their takeaway boxes and bags. See the photo for reference! It was actually quite silly of me because I asked for my order to go in the false hopes of finding a table to eat at in Union Square Park, but of course that real estate can be hard to come by on summer afternoons so I actually ended up walking all the way back to Express Manna and sitting at one of their tables outside. Sorry, I wasted to-go containers. But I was kind of advertising the place and pedestrians could see how delicious it was and how much I was enjoying it? Yeah…sure…
Express Manna offers a few lunch specials, but the bulgogi box is my go-to. Along with the meat (bulgogi being marinated beef) and rice, you get a small side salad, kim chi, jap chae (cold sweet potato noodles), egg tofu custard, and some kind of yellow pickled vegetable, which I’m not exactly sure what it is.
Don’t you just love that about Korean food? You order something and always automatically get a wonderful assortment of sides and condiments. Definitely makes the lunch deal seem even sweeter. Whether you eat at the restaurant or take it to-go, don’t forget to try some of their spicy chili sauce, which has a similar taste to Sriracha but more of roasted flavor. I’m also quite a fan of the marinade for the beef. I’m not sure what seasonings they use, but I was soaking up all that juice with my rice.
This is a great place to go when you’re looking for something a little different for lunch, but still need something convenient, efficient, and affordable. And if you’re new to Korean food, it’s a great place to take a peek and see what the cuisine offers.
Bulgogi box lunch special
28 E 18th St.
New York, NY 10003